by Richard Creaser
copyright the Chronicle 12-23-2013
ORLEANS — The crowd’s reaction to every point scored in Thursday night’s game belied the fact that it was only the second game of the season for both Lake Region and Lyndon Institute. There was a tension in the air that spoke of an intense rivalry or a high stakes playoff showdown. Both teams played like it might be their last game of the season. That makes for great basketball.
It’s entirely possible that the tone of the evening was set when the home team Rangers junior varsity squad edged the JV Vikings by a single point. It could also be that neither team was willing to go home without putting on the best possible show for their fans. Anyone who sat in the bleachers at the Don Harter Memorial Gymnasium certainly saw proof of that as the Rangers went on to win 64-54 to improve to 2-0 on the season.
“We knew this was going to be a tough game against a tough team,” Ranger Clint Provoncha said after the game. “They have some really good players like [Mason] Lantz. We knew we had to keep Lantz contained if we wanted to have a chance.”
The December 19 game was a game about composure and following through. The team that was forced to respond to their opponent’s scoring wouldn’t stay in contention for long.
“It really came down to our defense,” Lake Region Coach James Ingalls said. “We had to work both ends of the court, but it was our defense that gave us the advantage. Keeping their big scorers off the board was critical.”
Lantz and Viking teammate Kyle Cipollone each recorded 17 points in the game, accounting for more than half of Lyndon’s 54 points on the night. By contrast, three Rangers hit double digits in scoring, with Provoncha leading the way with 19 points, Dakota McAllister with 14 and Dennis Newland with 12.
A balanced attack was key to Lake Region’s victory. By spreading out the scoring, the Vikings had an even harder time keeping the Rangers off the board. A deadly outside attack paired with slick passing and timely layups enabled the Rangers to keep ahead of their opponents.
The Rangers struggled in the early going and entered the second quarter trailing 14-13. An over reliance on three-pointers saw the Rangers hit nothing but rim while the Vikings worked inside to create a lead. Recognizing that low percentage shots were taking their toll, Coach Ingalls switched gears and got his team to work inside.
“I told them we had to work hard, be patient, and those chances will come,” the coach said. “We have some height and a decent inside threat, and we weren’t using it to effect. Once we started working in more, those outside chances developed and we could start taking quality shots.”
The Rangers cruised out to a six-point lead heading into the half leading LI 27-21. Lake Region padded that lead even more in the third quarter as fouls began to take their toll on the Vikings. Heading into the final frame, the Rangers led 45-37.
Suddenly, the precision passing and accurate shooting the Rangers displayed through the middle quarters evaporated. The Vikings increased their own defensive zone pressure, forcing turnovers and generating breakouts in the Ranger zone. Lake Region’s eight-point buffer dwindled to just three points with only two minutes left on the clock.
Coach Ingalls often called out to his team to settle their play. The more rushed their attack, the less cohesive it became and the more likely the Vikings would force a turnover. The Rangers took the advice to heart and took more time to set up the plays they wanted to run.
With the game on the line, Lyndon’s foul troubles caught up to them, and free throws became a huge deciding factor in the outcome. Seven times the Rangers went to the line in the fourth quarter with Provoncha shooting four-for-five while McAllister shot a perfect four-for-four in the quarter.
“I spent a lot of time in the off season working on my free throws,” Provoncha said. “Those are the shots you’ve got to hit, and I wanted to be able to hit them when I had to. When I went up to the line I was just trying to keep my head clear, not worry about the score or the game and just focus on my free throws. Tonight it worked.”